World Dance Day

Land of Dances

The world dance day is celebrated on April 29th every year. In the land of India, every festival is an occasion for dance, be it the dance for Holi, be it for Bihu in Assam, be it the dance of Dandya for Navaratri, be it the cowherds dancing for Mattu Pongal. So, every occasion, every festival is a reason to dance in this land.

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Difference dances in Indian tradition

Cosmic Dance of Shiva – the Legend

Once Vishnu recounted to Adishesha, the wonderful Cosmic Dance, Tandava of Shiva, He had witnessed.

Dance of Shiva

Adishesha was wonderstruck by Vishnu’s recital of the great dance of Shiva at Thillai, Chidambaram. He prayed to Shiva to grant him a chance to see that vision. Shiva then directed him to go to Chidambaram and await Him. Adishesha then assumed the form of Rishi Patanjali.

In the old times, it is said, there were 2 shrines within the inner precincts of Chidambaram, one of which was dedicated to Kali. Now, as Shiva made his second visit to grant his devotee the vision of the Tandava, Kali did not permit Him to enter the great hall of dance. So, they decided to dance it out, with the condition that the vanquished would give up all claims to the shrine & leave the town. Then began the great competition witnessed by all the devas. The 2 great exponents of the Natya Shastra were equally matched in wondrous steps and no clear winner seemed to emerge!

The devas watched with bated breath. At last Mahadeva resorted to a pose where he shot his right leg straight over his head! Mahakali, doubtless, could have done it equally well, but feeling bashful, hesitated. And thus it was that Mahadeva was declared the winner and Kali had to take up her abode in the outskirts of Chidambaram. Thus it was that Patanjali got his glimpse of the Master of yoga. And that dance is much more than just an art form for us & is deeply connected to the sacred is evident from these mudras adorning the walls of the Thillai, in Chidambaram.

Popular Dance festivals in India

There are various dances that are innate to that festival, to that region.

Some of the popular dance festivals today in India being,

  1. Mamalpuram dance festival in front of Arjuna’s penance bas relief

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 Mamalapuram dance festival

  1. Konark Dance festival

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Konark dance festival in the foreground of Konark Sun Temple

  1. Chidambaram dance festival

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      Chidambaram dance festival

  1. Khajuraho Dance festival

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Khajuraho dance festival in the foreground of Lakshmana temple

Nataraja

Dance is not unique to humans alone. Even the animals, the birds and beasts have their own varieties of dance. The plants and trees also dance swaying gently in the breeze. So, everything in nature dances. This dance is just not random movement or flaying of one’s limbs but is a movement that is aesthetic, beautifully and most importantly in rhythm with nature. This rhythmic movement of all components exists in this universe, in the cosmos, which is why it is called Cosmic Dance. Nataraja is the embodiment of this cosmic dance.

More on the correlation and details between the cosmic dance, Nataraja and the underlying principle, Shiva Tattva is discussed in our book “Understanding Shiva”, which is a part of the Bharath Gyan series.

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World Earth Day

Our Earth, reverently called Mother Earth, is as alive as any other living being. Mother Earth constitutes everything that contains any or more of the five elements (Panchamahabhuta) – earth (bhumi), water (jala), air (vayu), fire (agni) and space (akash) – that constitute prana or life-giving energy.

In Indian tradition, Earth is called Prthvi which means ‘wide, heavy’. It is also called Dharti-‘that which bears’. This land reveres our planet as verily a Divinity, Bhu Devi.

In Veda

The Veda were compiled over 5000 years ago. In the Veda there are two separate chapters titled – Prthvi Sukta and Bhumi Sukta. Sukta, meaning a collection of mantra.

  1. Prthvi Sukta

      2. Bhumi Sukta

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The First verse with meaning from Bhumi Sukta

Prthvi Sukta

Prthvi means broad, expansive and heavy. Prthvi Sukta of the Veda deals with the earth, and on how it stands without any support on its base, being supported by the forces of Nature, to remain at its location in the universe.

Isn’t it really wonderful that the Vedic Rishi observed, understood and recorded these details about the earth, over 5000 years back itself!

Bhumi Sukta

Bhumi means earth and Sukta is collection of mantra. The etymological meaning Bhumi, means to be steady, stable, secure and sustained.

Steady

Our Bhumi has been steady for more than a few lakhs, millions of years.

Stable

The Bhumi has also been stable. The earth has been rotating and hurtling through space in its revolutionary motion at great speeds, but it has continued to give a stable perception to all beings on it.

Secure

The Bhumi has been a secure home to all living creatures.

Sustain

Apart from all these features of being steady, stable, secure, the other key meaning “is to sustain”. The earth sustains all plant life and animal life that have been fortunate to be born on it. This sustaining nature of earth has not only been understood and appreciated but has also been incorporated in the naming, and in the thought process.

Prthvi and Bhumi

We have seen above how Bhumi has a layer of meanings. It is to express these meanings, this concept, that the ancient Rishi the knowledgeable men of ancient India have separated the two facets of this earth and given it two distinct names – Prthvi and Bhumi. Prthvi for its broad, heavy and expansive nature and Bhumi for its stable, secure and sustaining nature.

The earth as Mother, Dharti may innately bear and sustain everything, but there is a limit to the extent to which She can bear the brunt of man’s actions.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed’ – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

 

Observations of Chief Seattle

The observations of Chief Seattle in 1964 is apt here on the relationship between man and earth.

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Chief Seattle

“The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

Greenery and Water Bodies disappearing

Greenery and Water are interrelated. The water bodies ensure an increase in the greenery cover all around them and more green cover ensures more rains and more water.

Today, in the name of progress and prosperity, buildings replace trees in most major cities.

Water bodies disappear to make way for residential and business complexes. The city is the centralized congested hub to which people from the rural areas migrate, in search of livelihood. This is in stark contrast to the era of ancient India, when most of the local community lived in villages with abundant greenery in their surroundings. Each village had its own water body called Pushkarni, which nourished the greenery in the village surroundings. The villages supported the cities. Agriculture flourished in the villages.

Water bodies are also disappearing, making way for residential centers and shopping malls.

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Huge buildings have replaced greenery

Decentralized System

In ancient India, the decentralized system was followed. Instead of a centralized hub like the cities where all people migrate to, there were many decentralized villages everywhere where the local community lived. The communities in these villages were smaller, and thus there was more greenery. Moreover, each village had its own water bodies called the Pushakarni, which contributed to the greenery of that area.

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Pushkarni surrounded by greenery

In ancient India, the villages supported the cities. Agriculture happened in villages. Decentralized manufacturing of products such as steel, zinc, copper, also happened in the villages. The cities were just a trading hub. The ecological footprint was thus spread out.
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Indian Ethos

The Indian ethos and practice of sustainability emanated from the Bhumi Sukta and Prthvi Sukta of Rig Veda and has flowed through the civilization therefrom. Bhumi Sukta speaks of the need to appreciate the life giving qualities of earth and hence need to keep it sustainable for generations to come.

A Thought provoking quote

A thought-provoking quote from the Hollywood movie, Matrix states:

“Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply… until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area.

There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern.

Do you know what it is?

A virus.

Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet”.

Time to sensitize ourselves

The urgent need of the hour is to stop and think about what we as custodians of Planet Earth, can do, to stop this ‘gang-rape’ of the planet. Let us, together and individually, sensitize ourselves and others towards saving the Earth. Let us take that extra effort to avoid plastics.

  • Let us use our own bags and our own water bottles.
  • Let us car-pool, use the public transportation, use the bicycle or walk to health, as often as we can.
  • Let us desist from using environment-harming chemicals.
  • Let us plant trees and saplings and more importantly, nurture them through their lives and our lives.
  • Let us be sensitive to our fellow creatures in birds and animals. Let us respect their home space in nature, along with ours.
  • Let us realize that we are infesting the earth. We need to control our population.

Small, but persistent steps in the right way, will surely help wean the Earth away from the fatality it is threatened with today.

World Earth Day is a time for us to resolve to revive these sustainable practices by becoming aware of them and putting them to right use and protect our planet.

More on sustainable practices of ancient India in our work, “Sustainable Ethos of India.”

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Time to come together to protect Mother Earth

Ras Leela

Krishna, as a fun loving, playful, young lad had a joyous time on the banks of the Yamuna River with His childhood friends, the cowherds – both male, the Gopa and female, the Gopi.

Many stories, sculptures, paintings have been drawn, through the centuries, on the delightful pranks of Krishna. Many have eulogized through poetry, dance and drama, Krishna and His friends teasing the Gopi.

Many have painted Krishna as a lad cavorting with the young Gopika Stree, maidens of the village.

Many a stories abound on how even married women, finding Krishna irresistible, would leave their meals and husbands just to be with Him.

The stories about the Lila, “acts”, “play” of Krishna with the Gopi, have come down through millennia through various forms of art, through enchanting tales as well as through spiritual messages.

Rasa Lila – Dancing With The Gopi

 In Krishna, the Gopi of Vrindavan saw the divine and were keen on obtaining Krishna as a husband. They therefore undertook fasts and prayed fervently with all devotion. Their minds were fixed on Krishna.

One night, the Gopi were drawn to the woods by the mesmerizing notes from Krishna’s flute. Leaving everything behind, they rushed to the woods to find that there was a Krishna waiting there for each one of them.

The night was spent dancing with their respective Krishna and rejoicing in His company as though each Gopi was His sole consort and that Krishna belonged to each of them solely. It was a very long night.

The moon came out to cool and brighten up the night with its soft glow. The night breeze was crisp and scented with the intoxicating fragrances from wild flowers.

Peacocks and deer mesmerized by this spell, stayed awake and came to lend colour and sound to the dance. They danced to the music too.

The waters of the Yamuna, as they flowed past, gurgled with joy at this sight.

It was the night of a Raslila.

As this night passed and the dance kept going, the Gopi relished being Krishna’s consort and the sole object of His love and attention.

It was a long night but even that gave way to daybreak and the magic came to a halt with the Lila. They had come to the forest at moon rise, with longing for Krishna. Now, before the sun could rise and wake the world, they returned to their homes with pangs of separation.

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Ras Lila

This incident of Krishna dancing with the Gopi has been beautifully described in poetry on Krishna. It is also enacted through various dance forms to this day.

Many have explained this Raslila beyond the miracle and beauty in it, for the essence of the spiritual message that lies there for one and all to relish. This Raslila has been explained by the realized as a symbolism of the spiritual reunion of the seeker with the Divine.

The Raslila dance stands as a metaphor for the emotions of single minded love, devotion and unification with the divine that prevailed in the seeker, the simple Gopi.

The above is an extract from our book, “Historical Krishna – Vol-1-Facets of Krishna, pg 25, 27, 28”.

Image result for historical krishna

Brahmaputra

Brahmaputra is a major river in Asia; a River that cuts across 3 countries, namely India, China, and Bangladesh.

A might River with many names

The river has its origin at Manasarovar in Tibet, near Mount Kailash, where it has name Tsangpo. In Arunachal Pradesh, where it enters India, it is called Yarlang. It is only in Assam, it gets the name Brahmaputra, where it is almost 11 kms wide. Its main distributary is known as Jamuna in Bangladesh, where it joins the Ganga Delta with Padma, one of the main distributaries of River Ganga.

One mighty river with many names!

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Brahmaputra

The river travels a total of 2900 km from its origin in the Himalayas to its mergence in Bay of Bengal. The Himalayan silt that comes from the flood gives the soil its fertility year after year.

The tributaries of Brahmaputra River are major rivers of North East India by themselves. Lohit River, Dhanisiri River, Bibang River are its chief left tributaries while Raidak River, Kameng River, Jaldhaka River, Teesta River are its chief right tributaries.

Uniqueness of Brahmaputra

Only India river with a masculine name

One fact that distinguishes this river is its masculine reference. All rivers in India have a feminine name, barring Brahmaputra. This is on account of its mighty nature, which is more masculine.  Brahmaputra means “Son of Brahma”.

Flows highest

Brahmaputra flows at an average height of 400 metres for about 13000 kms, in the Himalayan region, making it the highest among main rivers in this world.

Strongest among rivers

Based on its flow rate Brahmaputra is also the fifth strongest river in the world. One of the reasons accounting for this great strength of Brahmaputra is its tidal bore, i.e incoming tides from waves travel against the river current. In common parlance, this is known as tidal wave.

One of the widest rivers

Brahmaputra is also one of the widest river in the world, with the average width of 10 kms in plain areas.

Least polluted Indian river

Brahmaputra is today the least polluted among major rivers in India.

Forms the largest Delta

The Brahmaputra river, along with Ganga, forms the largest Delta in the world, known as Sundarbans in Bangladesh.

River with a moving island

Majuli is a large moving island on the River Brahmaputra about 200 kilometers from Guwahati and accessible by boats.

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Majuli island

The boatman in this part of the river, in Assam are known as Majhi.

The Majhi did not just ply their boats but were people who share the culture of the inhabitants on both banks of the river, their songs, the Majhi songs bringing out these facets.

Bhupen Hazarika, a son of Assam, was one of those who brought to the rest of India, the lilting melody of Majhi and Assam.

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Bhupen Hazarika

Link with Ancient India

The region around Brahmaputra, especially in Assam is linked to ancient Indian history.

One of the Shakti Peetha, the Kamakhya Shakti Peetha is located along Brahmaputra, in the state of Assam.

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Kamakhya Shakti Peetha Temple

The literary records on the Brahmaputra region are available from the times of Mahabharata, i.e. from 3000 BCE.  This region was then called Pragjyothisha. The king of those times was Bhagadatta, who fought in the Kurukshetra war under the Kaurava and was defeated by Arjuna.

Dimasa

Dimasa is one of the oldest tribes in Assam tribe. Dimasa means “Children of the Big River”, the big river being the Brahmaputra, around which the Dimasas had established their kingdom, Dimpur. The name Dimpur is derived from the words, Dim, meaning water and Pur meaning city.

Antiquity of the tribe

The antiquity of Dimasas go back to 5000 years, when the Mahabharata happened. Bhima married Hidimbi, the sister of Hidimba who was the chieftain of the Dimasa tribe.

Ghotokacha

Ghotokacha, the son of Bhima and Hidimbi played a major role in the Mahabharata War on the side of Pandavas.

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                     Ghotokacha                                         Kurukshetra Battle

Kirata

The people of this region were also known as Kirata which is recorded in Greek records of 100 CE, the “Periplus of the Erythraean Sea” and “Ptolemy’s Geographia” refer to it as Kirrhadia.

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Periplus of the Erythraean Sea – Book

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Ptolemy

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Ptolemy’s Geographia

Kamarupa

Later this region came to be called Kamarupa, from 350 CE to 1140 CE, of which the most noted king was Bhaskaravarman, in whose reign Hiuen Tzang, the famed Chinese traveller visited his court.

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Hiuen Tzang

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The Kamarupa Kingdom

What remains of Kamarupa today are distant memories, inscriptions and a district by that name – Kamrup.

Ahom dynasty

The Ahom dynasty ruled this region from 1228 CE to 1826 CE. Infact, the present name of the state, Assam comes from the word “Ahom”.

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Ahom Dynasty Insignia

Namami Brahmaputra

Namami Brahmaputra, India’s largest river festival is being held from 31st March to 4th April. The festival will be celebrated in 21 districts of Assam and the festival will be held on the banks of the river Brahmaputra.

The five day festival will include cultural programs, traditional sports, Brahmaputra Aarti, exhibition, film shows, seminars and competitions.